By: Julianna Bonetti - Jose Marti Stem Academy
A delicious treat every little kid has present in their lunchbox is Jell-O. But did you know Jello-O is made up of a protein that can serve as a matrix to help repair the human body? The heroic protein is gelatin, a common biomaterial used as a scaffold for cells to attach and grow to help repair damaged tissue. But gelatin is obtained from animals like cows and sheep which may cause immunogenic responses when implanted within the human body. So what if we used something plant-based? Zein is a protein derived from corn and is primarily composed of hydrophobic amino acids and glutamine. Zein's composition also highlights its advantages as a scaffold, since the amino acid glutamine can be used by cells as an alternative energy source to glucose. The goal of this project was to evaluate Zein as a scaffold for tissue regeneration by demonstrating its stability in hydrolytic (water) conditions as well as digesting it using an enzyme called collagenase and testing whether glutamine is present. Results demonstrated that Zein scaffolds are stable in hydrolytic conditions over time. Also, digestion of Zein after different collagenase treatments was confirmed with detection of glutamine using a glutamine detection assay(investigative procedure). Overall, these studies demonstrate Zein as a potential scaffold for tissue regeneration.
Using the oven for collagenase treatment on Zein
Trying to dissolve Zein in Cell Media
Zein scaffold fabrication through electrospinning
This research was conducted as a part of the Partners in Science Research Program. To read more, click here for a full pdf of Julie's formal research paper about her project!